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Recap: Surviving a Letdown

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Despite giving up two goals late, the Blue Jackets found a way.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Columbus Blue Jackets traveled north to take on the Buffalo Sabres in search of their fourth straight victory. Buffalo had struggled to open the season, winning only five games total before last night’s tilt. Among their losses was a 5-1 defeat in Nationwide Arena. That game was notable because, eleven long games ago, it was the last time Nick Foligno recorded a point for the team. Foligno was among the players singled out by Coach Tortorella as needing to improve his play.

Another on that list is David Savard, who returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Friday night. The clean-shaven defenseman was noted for his struggles on the second pairing this season.

Among the other interesting pre game notes, scouts for both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were present. It has been rumored that the Jackets have been interested in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, so keep an eye on that front.

Sergei Bobrovsky got the start in net, and off we went.

First Period

Both teams opened the game playing sloppy hockey, with several turnovers in the neutral zone and mostly kept along the boards early in the game. A turnover along the wall from Seth Jones allowed Buffalo to hem the puck in deep, but solid defensive work prevented Buffalo from getting a shot on net on the shift. Columbus spent much of the first five minutes in the defensive zone as the teams played some helter skelter hockey. A turnover in the defensive zone on a pass from Seth Jones to Artemi Panarin force Zach Werenski to deflect a puck sitting just in front of Sergei Bobrovsky. The Blue Jackets played sloppy hockey early, missing passes and failing to maintain much offensive zone presence.

Jeff Rimer noted some good news: Lukas Sedlak traveled with the team and may be close to returning soon. That’s excellent, this team needs all of the center help they can get. As the teams went into the second TV timeout of the period, Buffalo had several chances turned aside in quick succession by Sergei Bobrovsky. Credit to Benoit Pouliot who forced the turnover behind Bobrovsky.

A rush up ice led by Nick Foligno led to Oliver Bjorkstrand having a shot saved and some of the more sustained offensive zone pressure of the night. Tyler Motte had a stellar shift, forcing several cycles of the puck. Artemi Panarin later found Pierre-Luc Dubois but his shot from the slot was turned aside by Robin Lehner. On the ensuing rush, Jack Eichel’s shot was deflected aside by Sergei Bobrovsky.

After several minutes of end to end action, the first power play of the night was awarded to the Columbus Blue Jackets as Jack Eichel was sent to the box for a faceoff violation, bringing the league’s worst power play onto the ice. Buffalo spent the first 40 seconds playing keep away from Columbus. Artemi Panarin later let a shot fly that hit the post despite having Lehner beat. That was the only notable chance for the Jackets as Buffalo killed the power play.

After some sloppy play in the neutral zone from both teams, the Blue Jackets iced the puck. Jack Eichel was again tossed from the faceoff circle, much to his displeasure. Eichel later tried to walk around Zach Werenski and was turned away completely.

After twenty minutes of scoreless hockey, the Jackets were outshooting the Sabres 12-7.

Second Period

An early offside on the visiting Jackets to start the second period, followed by a loose puck going into a bench seconds later. Slow start to the second. Jeff Rimer noted that Josh Anderson is now playing more than 17 minutes per night for the team, which is interesting. Sergei Bobrovsky was able to deny Jack Eichel on a rush up the ice. Cam Atkinson finally made an appearance in the game with three minutes gone in the second, letting a shot go that Lehner was able to glove easily. Lots of perimeter play from both teams. Nick Foligno threw a nice puck threw the crease that just needed a deflection that wasn’t there.

BLUE JACKETS GOAL! After a cycle through the zone, mass confusion led Oliver Bjorkstrand to feed the puck in front of the net where it came right to Pierre-Luc Dubois who put the puck over a sprawling Lehner. 1-0 Jackets, with assists to Bjorkstrand and Markus Nutivaara at 4:14

Immediately after the goal, David Savard’s struggles continued as he went off for hooking. Despite time spent of the perimeter, Buffalo was unable to capitalize. Shortly after the power play ended, Evander Kane tried to rifle a shot home, but it went out of play. That was a lucky break, as Kane had a wide open net.

After the TV timeout, Dubois was sent on a breakaway by Panarin but the puck rolled off his stick. The Blue Jackets then were forced to defend for a time, but the shot blocking of the Jackets was able to keep the Sabres at bay. Jack Johnson let a one timer go from Ovechkin’s office at the nine minute mark that got through Lehner but trickled just wide.

The Blue Jackets settled down in the second period defensively, to their credit. So much of Buffalo’s play was forced into corners and along the boards. That pressure almost sprung Cam on a breakaway for a loose but Justin Falk was able to break it up. Dubois found Panarin on a cross ice pass at the 13 minute mark, but the one timer went just wide. Those two found instant chemistry on the ice and offensive chances were beginning to develop.

Jack Eichel got tossed from the faceoff circle for the fourth time on the night as the teams came back after the third TV timeout of the second period. At the 15:30 mark, Josh Anderson took an offensive zone penalty for hooking, a really bad penalty to take. After a scramble in front of the Jackets net, Cam Atkinson was able to generate a short handed breakaway but his shot hit the post. Of note, Markus Hannikainen earned time on the kill to end that chance. Sam Reinhart deflected a shot just wide as the power play ended.

The second period ended with end to end action from both teams, but no goals. After forty minutes, the Jackets led 1-0. Shots favored the Jackets 24-17.

Third Period

The Sabres opened the third period with a push. Evander Kane saw a shot saved by Bobrovsky despite a screen in front of the goaltender. Some end to end action to open the period saw neither team able to generate sustained offensive pressure. Jordan Schroeder lost an edge which led to a Buffalo rush, but David Savard helped to prevent any chances for Buffalo. Kyle Okposo saw a rebound on the doorstep get denied by Bobrovsky. Tyler Motte came up lame on a play that went uncalled - he got hit in the face with a stick and immediately grabbed his mouth.

OH MY WORD ARTEMI PANARIN, WHAT A GOAL. He caught a lob pass in the neutral zone, walked through the defense, and unleashed an unstoppable shot that beat Lehner at the 5:47 mark. Markus Nutivaara drew the assist. Three goals in four games for Bread Man.

BLUE JACKETS GOAL! After the second TV timeout, Boone Jenner notched his third goal of the season at the 9:24 mark. Dubinsky was able to win the faceoff, and he cycled the puck of the corner. Jenner was able to find the puck in the blue paint and put it past Lehner. Assists to Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson.

Sabres goal. On the ensuing faceoff, Buffalo was able to respond. A shot from the point was deflected by Sam Reinhart right in front of Bobrovsky and it popped over Bob and into the net. After a brief check for a high stick, the goal counted at 9:37.

The teams played a lot of end to end hockey as the game drew near its end. Tyler Motte returned to the ice after taking a high stick earlier in the period. Ryan O’Reilly let a shot go from the slot that Bobrovsky was able to deflect out of play at the 15:30 mark of the third period. Eichel was kicked out of the faceoff circle for the fifth time on the night.

Buffalo goal. Evander Kane was able to make it a one goal game with just 3:32 to go. After a neutral zone turnover, Jack Johnson afforded Kane far too much space in the zone and Kane was able to capitalize. Poor play by Johnson.

Buffalo’s pressure was noticeable and it had the Jackets on their heels. With 1:55 to go, Seth Jones hauled down Evander Kane (his first penalty this season) and it gave Buffalo a power play to end regulation. The Jackets were clearly scrambling, and Buffalo tried hard to pounce. At the start of the power play, the Sabres jammed the net after Bobrovsky robbed Okposo and the puck was covered in a scrum. The play went to review, but the call on the ice of no goal stood because a Buffalo player was on top of Bobrovsky.

A shooting gallery for the final 90 seconds was repelled, and Evander Kane took an interference penalty with 7 seconds to go. The Jackets, despite letting their foot off the gas entirely, did enough to hold on.

Final

Columbus Blue Jackets 3 Buffalo Sabres 2

Three Stars

Third: Artemi Panarin
Second: Pierre-Luc Dubois
First: Boone Jenner

Final Thoughts

This was the first time in six games that the Jackets scored three goals. Might the offense be waking up? Three goals in four games for Panarin as well.

Markus Hannikainen made several nice plays last night. He deserves some extended looks up with the club. He was always looking to get to the front of the net when he had chances.

It’s time to scratch Nick Foligno. He looks lost playing center. Hopefully the team finds a way to slide him to the wing when either Wennberg or Sedlak returns.

Sonny Milano looks lost out there. He needs to go back to Cleveland to find his game and his confidence.

Markus Nutivaara is quietly having a very good season. He and Ryan Murray are very clearly the second pairing right now.

The team let their foot off of the gas after going up 3-0, and that’s not okay. The team needs to find a way to finish games and manage the puck better. It’s nice that they found a way to get the two points in regulation, but the last seven minutes was some terrible hockey. The final two minutes was a stellar collective effort to keep Buffalo off of the scoreline. Shouts to Jack Johnson, David Savard, Brandon Dubinsky, and Cam Atkinson for doing the dirty work for much of that time.

PLD was crazy good. Look at this chart.

The Jackets return home Wednesday to take on the Calgary Flames. Faceoff is at 7:00. Go Jackets.